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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Heathrow claims the capacity reduction will continue until airlines recruit more ground staff

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A flight cap will remain in effect until airlines hire and train more ground workers, according to London’s Heathrow airport.

Heathrow announced on July 12, 2022, that it could only handle up to 100,000 departing passengers per day until September 11, 2022, following weeks of travel disruption during which travelers posted images of lengthy lines at airports and mountains of left luggage.

“The cap will remain in place until airlines increase their ground handler resource,” the UK’s largest airport said in a six-month financial update on July 26, 2022. “Airline ground handler performance has been much more stable since the cap came into effect, and we have seen a marked improvement in punctuality and baggage performance.”

The airport said that the airlines’ cost-cutting measures during the epidemic caused a substantial decline in the number of personnel employed in ground handling over the previous two years. It predicts that the number of airline ground handlers is only about 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

In keeping with its recent position that airlines are to blame for the delays, Heathrow stated that it had been voicing concerns about the paucity of ground handling workers for nine months.

While some airlines use their own in-house ground handlers, others outsource the work to third parties with whom they have contracts. On July 27, 2022, ground service employees of Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) in Germany will be on strike in support of higher pay, causing the airline to cancel almost all of its flights that day.

“We can’t ignore that COVID has left the aviation sector deeply scarred, and the next few years will need investment to rebuild capacity, with a focus on safety, consumer service, resilience, and efficiency,” Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye commented in the statement.

“Airlines need to recruit and train more ground handlers; airports need to catch up on underinvestment during the COVID years – at Heathrow, that means replacing the T2 baggage system and new security lanes,” he added.

Heathrow claimed, however, that the Civil Aviation Authority’s proposal on Heathrow charges, which is less than the airport requested, has made it more difficult to replace the Terminal 2 baggage system or new security lanes.

Due to an increase in passengers, Heathrow reported a loss before tax of £321 million ($385 million) for the first half of 2022, which is an improvement from a loss of £787 million ($943 million) the previous year. 26.1 million travelers traveled through Heathrow in the first half, up from 3.9 million just a year earlier.

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